By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

The number of credentialed professionals whose business valuation and litigation support work comprises less than 100% of their practice has grown significantly over the last five years.  When they pull staff resources from elsewhere in the firm (typically audit or tax), a “two-position player” is born.  Managing that individual productively requires attention to the unique dynamics of BV.

Choosing the right staff is the first challenge.  Practitioners who have gained momentum with the two-position player model suggest that pinpointing and inviting staff is the best way to start.  This approach allows you to get the talent you want, and positions the assignment as “special duty”.  As staff needs expand, and the word gets around that this is fun and challenging work, more will volunteer and you will have a larger pool to draw from.

As you pull staff from their regular roles (whether audit or tax) you will inevitably meet with availability conflicts.  So, even though you thought you might need only one additional person, you might want to seek out two, or more.

If you use a two-position player in your practice, you’ll have to take a longer view about their progress.  When these staffers first started work with your firm, it probably took at least 500 hours or so before they gained much momentum.  It could well take a year of BV assignments to accumulate that much experience.  The capability for assimilating training is also impacted by the frequency of that experience.

Some practitioners have improved the basic model by using a full-time professional to oversee the two-position players.  This arrangement offers greater flexibility in scheduling because availability conflicts have less impact on your ability to get work done. The full-time professional is in a better position to know which of your part-timers is most productive and best suited to a given assignment.  In this model training requirements are more easily met.  Using the full-time person to deliver internal training should reduce the cost of the training. In the long run, staff productivity from good training will find its way into the productivity of your full-timer.

At least one firm has pushed the envelope and developed a model that incorporates both part-time and full-time teams.  While this arrangement requires serious attention to resource coordination, it also nearly eliminates the problem of availability conflicts.  Training becomes easier if you let the two-position players take advantage of the same opportunities you arrange for your full-time staff.  Also, developing training especially for the two-position players can become part of personal development plans for those full-timers who aspire to more senior roles in the practice.  Finally, when you’re able to direct your employees into either part-time or full-time positions, you have the best of both worlds.  You can offer career development options that keep them happy and that are critical to retention.

Here are lessons suggested by practitioners who are successful in using the two-position player:

Communication.  Borrowing two-position players requires careful communication with other Partners.  Carefully designed processes and systems enable you to give them advance notice about when you’ll need staff, and avoid false starts.  Cooperation is a two-way street.  You have to be flexible in sending that audit person back when the request comes the other direction.

Career path.  Think through the career path issues.  If the BV path is not yet a standard path in your firm, be prepared to address staff questions about how becoming a two-position player will affect their upward mobility.  It’s important to talk to other departments and other Partners, and to make decisions about how this will get handled.  Employees will feel a lot better if you have an answer for them.

Give them time.  Don’t give up too soon.  Some people take longer than others to reach that “tipping point” when the light goes on.  Though you may be frustrated now and then, give your people time to explore whether this is really something they want to do long-term.

BV isn’t for everyone.  There are some people for whom BV is just not in their make-up.  If you’re asked to become a two-position player, you may not be comfortable dealing with something that is never for sure.  Business valuation is a business of judgment, where the deliverable is an opinion.  In audit and tax, you’re asked to draw conclusions.  In BV, you’re being asked what that conclusion means.

For a more detailed look at this phenomenon, join us for “Coming Unstuck: Removing Staffing Roadblocks to Expanding Your Business Valuation and Consulting Practice” at the NACVA and IBA Annual Consultants’ Conference in Miami, June 2 – 5.

The Care and Feeding of Your “Two-position Player”
John Borrowman